Pecola-The Bluest I

May 8, 2019 by Essay Writer

Toni Morrison’s Bluest Eye is a tragic narrative of how one black community loathes itself simply for not being white. Yet, even more tragic is the fact that an innocent little girl, Pecola, also comes to hate herself for not being white. She believes that only by having blue eyes can she actually be considered beautiful and that only by being beautiful can she be loved by those around her. Three critical factors, which drive Pecola to this delusional conclusion, are the media by which she is heavily surrounded, her family, and her community. Pecola, like her mother, bases her definitions of beauty heavily on the 1940’s white media by which she is bombarded. She is described as gazing “fondly at the silhouette of Shirley Temple’s dimpled face” on a milk cup and admiring the visages of movie idols like Betty Grable and Hedy Lamarr (19).The media shape in Pauline and Pecola Breedlove the conviction that they could not possibly be beautiful because they were not white. They saw justification and confirmation of this notion “leaning at them from every billboard, every movie, every glance” (39). The people who are most able to influence Pecola-negatively or positively-are those closest to her: her family. As early as Pecola’s birth, Pauline had considered her ugly and treats her as thus her whole life. Right after her daughter’s birth, Pauline observes, “A right smart baby she was….But I knowed she was ugly. Head full of pretty hair, but Lord she was ugly” (126). An instance which illustrates Pauline’s low regard for her daughter is when Pecola accidentally spills a blueberry cobbler, splashing some of the seething juice onto her legs: “In one gallop, [Mrs. Breedlove] was on Pecola, and with the back of her hand knocked her to the floor. Pecola slid in the pie juice, one leg folding under her. Mrs. Breedlove yanked her up by the arm, slapped her again…” (109). Instead of being concerned for Pecola’s wellbeing, Pauline both physically and verbally batters her daughter in front of a white girl for whose family she works. In stark, painful contrast, Pauline immediately changes her tone of voice upon seeing that the white girl is discomforted by the episode and soothes her, ironically, as a mother would, ” ‘Hush, baby, hush. Come here. Oh Lord, look at your dress. Don’t cry no more. Polly will change it'” (109). Further evidence that Pecola’s home is devoid of love is the fact that her brother Sammy is constantly running away, her father is always drunk, and her parents are incessantly arguing and fighting. Pecola tragically believes that, somehow, all the unhappiness in her family stems from her not being beautiful. Consequently, she desires to be invisible and to have “pretty blue eyes”, hoping that her family would stop doing bad things in the presence of these beautiful eyes (46). Pecola’s community-everyone with whom she comes in contact outside her home-also affect her greatly. Various encounters with adults in the community cause Pecola to succumb even more hopelessly to the belief that she is ugly. One instance in which Pecola is subtly but visibly spurned by an adult white man is when she is buying some Mary Jane candy from the local grocer, Mr. Yacobowski; when she reaches over the counter to pay for her candy, “He hesitates, not wanting to touch her hand….Finally he reaches over and takes the pennies from her hand. His nails graze her damp palm” (49-50). On another occasion, when Geraldine comes home and hears that Pecola has killed her cat, she maliciously spits out, “Get out, you nasty little black bitch. Get out of my house” (92). Finally, even Soaphead Church, the man to whom Pecola has come to seek help, regards her as “pitifully unattractive” (173). One can only envision the pain Pecola must feel upon being utterly rejected by Mr. Yacobowski and then being called a “black bitch” by a woman who regards her as less than dirt, a woman who is herself black. School is yet another place where Pecola is shunned, rejected by peers and teachers alike. Pecola perceives that “[Her teachers] tried never to glance at her, and called on her only when everyone was required to respond”, as if they were avoiding even noticing her presence in their classrooms (45-46). Pecola’s troubles are not nearly over by the end of the school day; we see that she is harassed mercilessly on her way home by a gang of black boys who surround her and chant, ” ‘Black e mo. Black e mo. Yadaddsleepnekked'” (65). It is almost as if they are bringing attention to Pecola’s black features in a deluded effort to reassure that they themselves are not ugly because they are not as “black”. The one friend Pecola makes at school is Maureen Peal, a well-to-do “high-yellow” girl who talks with her about movies and menstruating and even takes her out for ice cream. This “friendship” proves to be quite short-lived however. When insulted by Claudia for always acting “cute”, Maureen immediately turns on Claudia as well as her new friend Pecola, retaliating: “‘I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly e mos'” (73). Thus, the various media cultivate in Pecola’s mind the profound notion that being white is the one true beauty. Pecola’s family, teachers, and peers then drive this notion even more deeply into her mind by unceasingly rebuking her for having black, and therefore ugly, features. All her life, Pecola seems to be a lonely little girl on an endless search for some kind of love, for some kind of positive attention from those around her. She eventually comes to the conclusion that having blue eyes would bring her both the love and attention for which she has longed all her life. Pecola finally does receive attention from her father: “Cholly loved her….He, at any rate, was the one who loved her enough to touch her, envelop her, give something of himself to her” (206). Although Cholly’s rape(s) of Pecola is wrong in all respects, Pecola herself could have perversely seen it as a form of his love for her. She reasons that, in order to actually receive love from someone, she must have blue eyes. This, in turn, is probably what finally drives Pecola into insanity at the end of the book, believing she has blue eyes.

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